Getting away from illustrating Dubai as the city of superlatives, artist Jessica Barder decided to change her frame of reference for her first exhibition in the city.
“With Dubai, a lot of people associate the city with the tallest building or the biggest mall in the world — everything is the biggest and the best — but for me, there are a lot of tiny aspects of the city that make up the bigger picture and that’s the smaller picture,” she said.
Barder’s photographs and realistic paintings will be on display at the Corp Executive Hotel Apartments in Al Barsha until June 2. Her art zooms in on the smallest natural scenes in and around the city, from an ant climbing a shrub to mangrove saplings popping out of the water at the Ras Al Khor Wildlife Sanctuary.
And in a city where the lifestyle tends to keep people indoors, Barder, 27, says her artwork brings the outdoors in. “When you work at a desk job and live in an apartment, you tend to crave a tree, grass, the sea, the ocean, the outdoors.”
Barder’s passion for the outdoors comes from growing up in Nairobi, Kenya, where she was born. Her father would paint wildlife scenes and often ask her to give him a hand. It’s that love for the outdoors she illustrates in her current exhibition, titled ‘The Smaller Picture’. “I wanted people to see Dubai in a completely different light, I didn’t want them to see Dubai with Burj Khalifa or Burj Al Arab, I wanted them to see the tiny unique aspects of it,” she said, adding that the focus of this exhibition was the natural side of Dubai.
In producing her work, Barder first takes photographs of the subject matter she wants to paint and then uses acrylic on canvas or acrylic and charcoal to create her artwork. Her love of art began as a child and she has fond memories of running through her grandmother’s home in England, appreciating the paintings adorning the hallway walls. “My grandmother collected art all her life and the corridors in her house are covered in artwork from all sorts of different artists.
“As a kid, I remember running up and down the corridors and whereever I’d stop, there would be a sea of artwork,” Barder said.
At the launch of Barder’s art exhibition on Wednesday was her friend Florian Dournes, who came down from Abu Dhabi to see the photographs and paintings.
Dournes pointed to his favourite piece, a painting of an ant climbing a shrub. “The ant is quite striking because it’s so small and she managed to capture that in an instant snap.” Dournes has known Barder for six years and said he knew she was a budding artist, but never got the chance to showcase her work.
“I’m just quite proud of her; this is her first exhibition and I hope there will be many more.”